QUESTION:Even though practicing pronunciation is an integral part of learning a foreign language,as a teacher,I confess that I tend to avoid providing my learners with this practice.'Listen and Repeat' bores me and them.Do you have any other suggestions?

ANSWER:  An essential part of English pronunciation is some basic awareness of syllabication and word stress.  Our suggestion , "Let's Snap, Clap, Tap, Walk Syllables" is an activity for beginning/elementary level children, yet it can be used with all levels and ages of language learners.  Learners can practice saying words and phrases in unison, while indicating on which  syllable, within a word or phrase, the stress falls.  We provide you with 4 ways to indicate or mark where the stress falls: Snap, Clap, Tap, Walk.  Two additional silent options are (1) to move one's extended pointer finger downward in the air or (2) to underline the stressed syllables on a worksheet provided.  You choose which way best suits you, your learners and their learning environment.



1. Prepare a list on the board for you and your learners to see and  follow.  For example, the list could consist of the following words: "cupboard, door, cinema, window, radio, sweater, uniform, garden, forest, village, restaurant, important, expensive, square, farm, zoo."

2.  With the same words, prepare and show an augmented version  for the second round.  Here the same words are contextualized  with collocates in phrases or sentences: "our kitchen cupboard, the neighbor's back door, an open-air cinema, open the window, turn off the radio,  I'm putting on my sweater., his military uniform,   Please water the garden., deep in the forest, my grandfather's village,  an Indian restaurant, not very important, a bit expensive, the central square, walk around the farm."


1. Read out the words one by one, indicating by clapping, snapping, tapping a pencil on the desk or walking with exaggerated steps, the syllable which carries the stress. Once modeled, lead the learners to say the word and follow your example.

2. After you have lead them with 3-5 examples, call on pairs of children to «clap» a word’s syllables on their own.  Once the pair has succeeded, lead the whole class in repeating and clapping the word again.

3.  Follow the same procedure as in 1 and 2, using the phrases/sentences in the second list (the same words together with collocates).

AN ADAPTATION  (for upper intermediate teenage or adult learners):

See this list of  homographs (those pairs of  words --one, an           adjective or verb and the other, a  noun) which have the same spelling, yet different meanings and pronunciations:

NOUN stress on          VERB stress on second syllable

first syllable

content                                   content

decrease                               decrease

desert                                     desert           

export                                     export

insult                                      insult

permit                                    permit

object                                     object

present                                  present

project                                   project

rebel                                       rebel

record                                    record

suspect                                 suspect

transfer                                  transfer

upset                                      upset


First, send the learners on a monolingual dictionary search to look up and practice pronouncing each word of the pairs.  As the stress falls on a different syllable for each of the paired         words, encourage learners, while they are saying the words to 'mark' the stress by clapping or tapping.

As the next task, ask the learners to write pairs of sentences to illustrate the difference in meaning and parts of speech.  Assign individuals or pairs of learners different pairs of words, so that, during report back, they may benefit from a 'peer learning' situation.

RATIONALE:  Learners are engaged in sound and movement while working with the selected vocabulary items. Contextualizing these vocabulary items and, at the same time, marking the rhythm of speech,  can aid the learner's memory and ease of oral expression.


Suzanne and Lilika

October 2017